Javier Pierini

From art deco mansions to historic restaurants, a series of renovations has created great new hotels and restaurants in Buenos Aires.

January 13, 2011

Rooms

The French Classical Algodon Mansion (suites from $400), in upscale Recoleta, became the city’s most exclusive boutique hotel when it opened in September. Inside the landmark building, expect discreet luxury rather than glitz: 10 ebony wood–floored suites have been decorated with a spare, masculine hand, and guests are given round-the-clock butler service. A block away, centennial magnolia trees shade a 1934 palace, part of the 165-room Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires (doubles from $495). Inside, crystal chandeliers and ornate plasterwork are offset by sleek Modernist furniture. Tucked among the early-20th-century town houses in the fashionable Palermo neighborhood, the restored Great Value Magnolia Hotel Boutique (doubles from $180) has an original stained-glass ceiling in the foyer and antique furnishings in the eight bedrooms. The fluted façade of the Great Value Moreno Hotel Buenos Aires (doubles from $148), located two blocks from the Casa Rosada, where Eva Perón gave her famous address, dates to the 1920’s—when Argentina embraced Art Deco. A concertina-gated elevator ferries guests up to the 39 ample rooms, fitted with furniture upholstered in sea greens or crimsons.

Shops

For contemporary crafts, head to the Palermo showroom Arte Étnico Argentino. Ricardo Paz and his staff hand-finish the rustic furniture he sources from villages in the Santiago del Estero province in the country’s northwest. Look for cupboards made of naturally felled chanar wood and colorful hand-woven textiles. Amid San Telmo’s antiques galleries, ArtePampa sells pre-Columbian-style dolls, llama-motif mirrors, and lampshades of lacquered, textured paper, all handcrafted in the central province of La Pampa. A block away, master silversmith Marcelo Toledo creates ornate, silver-lined gourds for sipping mate, Argentina’s national drink. In Retiro, book dealer Poema 20 offers first editions and historical paraphernalia. Our favorites: Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia and pictures of Jorge Luis Borges at his family’s kitchen table.

Food

Four Argentine presidents have been members of the stately Club del Progreso (dinner for two $45), in the Tribunales district. Since the restaurant’s revamp two years ago, politicos have returned for the modern takes on classic Porteño fare—mushroom-stuffed squid and tender suckling pig roasted in a clay oven—in the classic oak-paneled dining room. Highballs and Hurricanes are served with just the right degree of gravitas at the lacquered mahogany bar in Recoleta’s Hotel Club Francés (dinner for two $75). A recent makeover lightened the marble-clad interior with contemporary splashes of purple and ultramarine. In-the-know diners reserve a table at one of the city’s puertas cerradas, or closed-door restaurants, where chefs open their houses to a handful of patrons two or three nights a week. One of the movement’s founding institutions, Palermo-based Casa Coupage (dinner for two $190), is a wine lover’s dream: the sommelier-owners pair mineral-rich Chardonnays and dense Argentinean Malbecs with local dishes such as skirt steak with quinoa and portobello mushrooms. An unmarked doorway in Villa Crespo conceals Almacén Secreto (dinner for two $30), the private kingdom of chef Abigail Machicado, who prepares dishes from Argentina’s south (venison raviolones), center (oven-baked Paraná River fish), and north (charquisillo, a stew made with cured meat). In a country built on immigration, Koreans are among the latest wave of newcomers. At Cocina Sunae (dinner for two $50), Christina Sunae serves delicate pork dumplings and salads bursting with papaya and mango; save space for her green-tea ice cream.

Culture

After tango shows and fútbol matches, there are plenty of ways to access Buenos Aires’s rich traditions. The labyrinth of dwellings, cisterns, creeks, and courtyards below San Telmo at El Zanjón reveal centuries of urban living dating back to the 1500’s, when the city was founded. In neighboring Montserrat, the recently restored Palacio Barolo became the city’s first skyscraper when it opened in 1923. A tour of the Art Nouveau–inspired building offers some of the best views of the skyline. Argentina’s leading folk musicians stamp out complex rhythms at Palermo’s popular music hall La Peña del Colorado. In less-visited Caballito, locals have bargained with butchers and greengrocers for more than 100 years under the iron arcades of Mercado del Progreso. If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir, visit the Pick Market, Recoleta’s airy new food hall.

Airport News

The much-anticipated Terminal C at Ministro Pistarini International Airport, where foreign traffic has grown significantly in the past five years, will open in May with new shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. In the meantime, the best amenities can be found in Terminal A: for last-minute shoppers, Los Robles sells handmade polo boots along with leather belts, hats, and bags. The Duty Free Shop sells the best alfajores, chocolate-coated cookies filled with dulce de leche (milk caramel).

Arte Étnico Argentino

Some 25 years ago, antiquarian Ricardo Paz visited the dry forest of northern Argentina and found villages of artisans turning out colorful textiles and organic wood and leather furniture—a tradition that died down when the region was deforested to make way for farms. The huge store that Paz and his wife, Belén Carballo, opened in Buenos Aires several years later is an homage to these artisans, packed with century-old textiles hand-woven with geometric shapes, and antique and custom-made contemporary wood furniture turned out by artisans from the northern region of Santiago del Estero. Textiles, which are heavy on red and warm colors, cost anywhere from about $300 to $3,000.

El Zanjón

Historic in architectural form, this museum and event space is housed in a 178-year-old mansion–turned–boarding house that once sat atop the city’s earliest sewer system. When Jorge Eckstein, an Argentine chemical engineer of Hungarian parents, bought the ruined building in 1985, the trash and rubble piled to the ceiling of the first floor. Discovering the forgotten tunnels—and inside them implements that told a multicentury history—Eckstein restored the mansion and its catacomb-like basement. Displays run from an old underground slave cell to photos from the area’s 19th-century heyday, and tell the city’s story in a way no book could. This visit offers a wonderful—and bizarre—view into the city’s past, not to mention into the owner’s obsession with revealing it.

Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

This Park Hyatt feels like two hotels in one. The original 23-room mansion, built in 1934 by French architect Leon Dourge, defines Belle Époque elegance with elaborate ironwork, glass chandeliers, and Persian rugs. Next door is the 142-room Posadas building, a sleek and minimalist tower that opened in 2006. What links the two spaces—in addition to rotating contemporary art exhibits—is impeccable service that elicits kudos from even the most discerning globetrotters. And while the rooms’ appearances vary according to their era (hardwood floors and silk curtains in the Palacio, a natural palate and contemporary furniture in Posadas), all have the highest-end technology, soaking tubs, and bathrooms bedecked in Travertino marble. At La Vinoteca lounge, a sommelier and maitre fromager pair wines from among 3,500 bottles of Argentine vintages with regional cheeses.

Moreno Hotel Buenos Aires

The fluted façade of the loft-style hotel, located two blocks from the Casa Rosada, where Eva Perón gave her famous address, dates to the 1920's-when Argentina embraced Art Deco. A concertina-gated elevator ferries guests up to the 39 ample rooms, fitted with furniture upholstered in sea greens or crimsons.

Almacén Secreto

An unmarked doorway in Villa Crespo conceals Almacén Secreto, the private kingdom of chef Abigail Machicado, who prepares dishes from Argentina's south (venison raviolones), center (oven-baked Paraná River fish), and north (charquisillo, a stew made with cured meat).

Algodon Mansion

A 2009 renovation of Buenos Aires’ Algodon Mansion, in the city’s Recoleta neighborhood, upped the ante at the six-story Belle Époque gem. The New York-based owners of Algodon (also the forces behind the Mendoza-based Algodon Wine Estates) spared no expense. The 1912 now hotel comprises just 10 luxurious suites, and each is furnished with a cavernous limestone-and-marble bathroom—some even have grand pianos. The spa offers organic, wine-inspired treatments (the Algodon wine salt bath utilizes exclusive vintages from San Rafael, Mendoza) and at the restaurant, Chez Nous, chef Antonio Soriano serves a seasonal menu of dishes such as grass-fed lamb chops with Andean potatoes or Patagonian black sea bass with black-olive gnocchi. 

Magnolia Hotel Boutique

Tucked among the early-20th-century town houses in the fashionable Palermo neighborhood, the restored hotel has an original stained-glass ceiling in the foyer and antique furnishings in the eight bedrooms.

ArtePampa

Amid San Telmo's antiques galleries, ArtePampa sells pre-Columbian-style dolls, llama-motif mirrors, and lampshades of lacquered, textured paper, all handcrafted in the central province of La Pampa.

Marcelo Toledo

Poema 20

This book dealer offers first editions and historical paraphernalia. Our favorites: Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia and pictures of Jorge Luis Borges at his family’s kitchen table.

Club del Progreso

Since the restaurant’s revamp in 2009, politicos have returned for the modern takes on classic Porteño fare—mushroom-stuffed squid and tender suckling pig roasted in a clay oven—in the classic oak-paneled dining room.

Hotel Club Francés

Since its opening in 1866, the storied French Club has drawn generations of politicians and writers. While the city’s intelligentsia still congregates at the lobby bar, the upper floor was recently turned into a 28-room hotel filled with antiques and period furniture. Best For Travelers with a passion for history.

Casa Coupage

The sommelier-owners pair mineral-rich Chardonnays and dense Argentinean Malbecs with local dishes such as skirt steak with quinoa and portobello mushrooms.

Sunae Asian Cantina

Palacio Barolo

La Peña del Colorado

Argentina's leading folk musicians stamp out complex rhythms at Palermo's popular music hall.

Mercado del Progreso

In less-visited Caballito, locals have bargained with butchers and greengrocers for more than 100 years under these iron arcades.

Pick Market

For foodie souvenirs, visit the new gourmet market in Recoleta.

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